UFO / Tara Lynch

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UFO / Tara Lynch - O2 Ritz, Manchester (UK) - 16 March 2019

The first time I saw UFO was in 1981. I have seen them countless times since, in venues of varying size. Surprisingly I have seen them only once with Michael Schenker. I will never forget that fateful night in Manchester, back in November 2000, when the car didn't just crash on stage, it flipped and rolled over ten times before disintegrating in a ball of flames. When Schenker walked away from the band many envisaged the end, but Vinnie Moore has become something of a stabling influence. Though there has been some criticism aimed at the varying quality of the studio output and the 'Strangers In The Night' nature of the live set-list, there is no doubting they are still a viable live draw. This 2019 tour not only celebrates fifty years of the band, it also marks the end, hence the 'Last Orders' tag. With age a telling factor, Phil Mogg has decided to bring his UFO tenure to a close. He has been the only constant during the band's lifetime so it is hard to imagine UFO without him, especially as his voice is such an identifiable element of the sound. As expected the tour sold out very quickly and Ritz in Manchester was wall to wall and very cosy.

Opening proceedings tonight was Tara Lynch. An unknown quantity for many of those here to see UFO I would suspect, and as her set began the room was barely half full. I have to confess that her brand of guitar dominated Metal left me cold, despite some admirable playing. The songs lacked any real identity and were overly reliant on the six-string antics. The four-piece band were tight enough and the performances were OK, but I found my attention wandering too much to be able to fully appreciate the fourty-minute set.

At 8.15, with the venue finally packed, the five members of UFO made a low-key entrance to the stage and for the next hour and a half showed why they will be missed so much. Nine of the fifteen songs are still taken from 'Strangers...', but under the circumstances I don't think anyone minded too much. From opener 'Mother Mary' through to the closing 'Shoot Shoot', for those in attendance (except the ignorant few who stood with backs to the stage holding lengthy conversations... don't get me started on people like this) it was a night to savour and remember. There were no flowery sentiments and aside from one or two quips from Mogg (a celebratory gold watch tucked into his waistcoat pocket... he had to buy himself) it was just a normal show. I've always been unsure about his supposed memory issues, yet it was still amusing the way he introduced the more recent material ('Messiah Of Love' and 'Burn Your House Down') as "here's a song from... an album" and "here's a song from... another album".

It was good to hear 'Ain't No Baby' from 'Obsession' and this comfortably suited Mogg's seasoned delivery style. Vinnie Moore's playing was exceptional throughout ('Rock Bottom' being a real tour-de-force), even though the guitar was pushed a little too high in the mix towards the end of the show. Paul Raymond and Andy Parker are the more unassuming members of the band and content to fulfil their own roles with the minimum of professional fuss. Rob DeLuca has established himself as Pete Way's replacement now, and as the youngest member of the band it is to his credit that he lets his playing do the talking without trying to steal any limelight. For some reason Moore appeared wearing a flat cap during the 'Doctor Doctor'/'Shoot Shoot' encore and it was nice to see Mogg and he share some laughs.

Despite the awful weather conditions and one or two travel issues it was a great night in Manchester. It will be a shame if there isn't a visual document of the tour somewhere down the line as (if it is really the end) UFO went out on a high. Right now, I just have some great memories (and some cool photos from the pit) as a souvenir. This time it is an honour to say I was there.

Dave Bott

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